“And we’ll start the auction with this little box of treasures,” shouted the auctioneer.  He showed off the contents of the box – two small paintings and an assortment of door knobs. 

“Good lord,” muttered James Black.  “Leave it to Ronald Hamilton to squeeze out every last dollar.  Even after he’s dead, the old miser is trying to make a buck by selling his trash.”

“Oh, James, don’t be so critical.  That painting of the mountains looks very pretty.”

Brown snorted.  “You can get the same thing at a garage sale for a few dollars.  The only thing of value in this whole auction is the Shaker furniture.”

“What’ll’ya gimme for this,” asked the auctioneer.  “Do I hear a bid for twenty dollars?”  The auctioneer tried to work his magic on the crowd to elicit a bid, but the crowd remained silent.  The bid dropped to ten dollars, and then to seven.

Meredith Black poked her husband in the ribs.  “Bid on it, James.”

“Seven bucks for that junk?  No way.”

“Do it, James,” she said with a glare.

Black reluctantly bid, to the amusement of his friends and acquaintances in the crowd.  A moment later, he was the winning bidder.  It was the only of the junk lots to get a bid.  The auctioneer gave his best effort, but the bidders were all waiting for the Shaker furniture.

When the furniture went on the block, a buzz went through the crowd.  The items in Hamilton’s collection of furniture were in exceptionally good condition and were expected to fetch top dollar.  The bids came fast and furious, and soon shot above the level James Black was willing to pay.  Black was in a foul mood as they walked back to the truck.

“Hey, Black, you got the bargain of the auction.”  Black turned as saw the laughing figure of Charles Davis.  Davis had picked up a beautiful grandfather clock that James had coveted.

“I happen to like the painting,” retorted Meredith.  “It’s pretty.”

“Pretty,” replied David with a laugh.  “Pretty?  Yeah, that will help its resale value.”

An hour after they arrived home, Meredith Black had found the perfect location for her painting.   “James, could you hang the painting right here,” she asked, pointing to a spot near the window in her office.”

James Black quickly hung the painting and straightened it using his miniature level.

“What about the other painting,” he asked, holding up the paining of some boats.

“That one’s not very cheery at all.  Throw it out.”

“I know,” replied James with a grin.  “I’ll hang it above the toilet.  Hanging crap above the crapper –  get it?”

Meredith rolled her eyes but made no comment.  If letting him hang the dumb painting above the toilet would pull him out of his grumpy mood, it was OK with her.

When Elizabeth Black came to visit her parents over the weekend, Meredith proudly showed off her new mountain scene.

“Dad’s right, of course,” replied Liz, the art appraiser.  “Garage sale quality.”

“But it’s so pretty,” replied her mother.

“If it makes you happy, you should definitely hang it,” agreed Liz.  “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.  I’m quite partial to Norman Rockwell myself, in spite of the snide remarks of my colleagues.”

During supper that night, Elizabeth excused herself from the table to use the bathroom.  When she returned, she had a question for her parents.

“Have you contacted the MH de Young Museum about their missing painting?”

“Huh?” came the reply from her father.  “That worthless mountain thing?”

“No, that $200,000 masterpiece you have hanging so beautifully above the toilet.  It’s Van de Velde’s Harbor Scene – stolen from the museum in 1978.”

 

 

Note: Willem van De Velde’s Harbor Scene actually was stolen from the MH de Young Museum in San Francisco in 1978. If you happen to stumble across it at an auction, give them a call!

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Kosmo is the founder of The Soap Boxers and writes on a variety of topics. Many of his short stories have been collected into Kindle books.

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